In the studio with… Shahzia Sikander

After receiving rigorous training in miniature painting at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Shazia Sikander set out to reinvent the art form for the modern era. The Pakistani-born, New York-based artist combines traditional approaches and contemporary concerns to create an iconography of his own. His intricately detailed works are often large-scale and sometimes painted directly on the walls or on tea-stained canvases. In recent years, she has also experimented with other media, such as media, animation or performance. ‘Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities’ is currently at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York (until September 26); he will be visiting the RISD museum later this year.

Where is your workshop?
Currently in my apartment in New York.

What do you like most about space?
That my library is close at hand, that I can multitask when needed, and that I don’t have to leave the apartment to go to work. It’s also within walking distance of some of my favorite museums – I usually start my day with a brisk walk and go to one of the museums for 15 minutes to see a piece of art.

What frustrates you?
The intimate scale.

Pillars of pleasure (2001), Shahzia Sikander. Courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly, New York; © Shahzia Sikander

Do you work alone?
When I collaborate with authors, composers and poets, I work collectively, when I research and draw, it’s usually on my own.

How messy is your studio?
I work on the ground: ultimately everything ends there in different formations.

Shahzia Sikander at work on her show at the Morgan

Shahzia Sikander at work on her show at the Morgan

What artistic tool could you least do without?
The magnifying glass attached to my drawing board, which allows me to paint intensely intricate details.

What’s the most popular book in your studio?
Feminism is for everyone by bell hooks and Artificial hells by Claire Bishop.

What’s your typical studio lunch?
Bagel and coffee or fruit salad.

What do you listen to while you work?
Currently Worried, an album by Vijay Iyer, Tyshawn Sorey and Linda Oh.

Do you sometimes sleep in your studio?
Absolutely, I love the creative intimacy of continuing to work through the rituals of dreams.

Is something (or anyone) prohibited in your studio?
Negative atmospheres and gossip.

‘Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities’ is at the Morgan Library and Museum, New York, until September 26; then at the RISD Museum, Rhode Island, from November 12 to January 30, 2022.

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